TRUMP’S TRADE SLAP TO GERMANY BESMIRCHES VW
Each time we think we can’t get any more embarrassed or disgusted over the talk and actions of President Donald Trump, we find we can, in fact, be more embarrassed — and disgusted.
Last week, Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both attended meetings at a NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a G7 meeting in Taormina, Italy. The most contentious issues were on climate and trade, with Trump lecturing the Europeans — especially Germans — and mulling over whether to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal.
The meeting left Merkel hinting later that her country couldn’t “fully rely” on countries like the United States in part because of “what I experienced in the last few days.”
That led to Trump, back to his Twitter games after returning from his nine-day foreign mess-making mission, tweeting: “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”
Meanwhile, according to German news reports, Trump had told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk: “Look at the millions of cars that [Germans] are selling in the United States. It’s horrible. We’ll stop it.”
All of which prompted Merkel to reiterate that the German-U.S. relationship is of “outstanding importance,” but Europe would “take our fate into our own hands” moving forward.
Trump’s slap at Germany’s trade policy raised eyebrows with other German politicians, too, including Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader of the Social Democrats.
“Donald Trump is making clear with his tweet that he considers Germany a political opponent,” Oppermann said. “This is a new situation — we lived for decades in the certainty that we could rely on each other as partners in an alliance, and this certainty no longer exists today.”
Of course nothing coming out of Trump’s mouth can be taken as fact. “Look at the millions of cars” Germany’s selling us? U.S. consumers bought about 846,000 German-made cars and light trucks assembled in 2016, according to data compiled by Autodata, which tracks vehicle sales. That number represented about 4.8 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales last year.
But Trump’s tweet and comments also raised eyebrows back here in the United States — and especially in Chattanooga — for another reason. Jobs.
In Chattanooga alone, Volkswagen in 2016 employed 3,262 in its auto assembly plant, according to autoalliance.org. That number is expected to increase as VW ramps up production of a second car here, but even that is just the tip of the VW-jobs iceberg: A University of Tennessee at Knoxville study last year showed that Volkswagen Chattanooga, by also attracting supplier companies to the area, had created 12,400 full-time jobs and was responsible for an additional $643.1 million in annual income locally.
So, Donald. What exactly do you want? America first or America last? Chevys sold in Germany or German-created jobs here that American auto firms like GM and Ford didn’t create? Oh, and by the way, remember that GM in March announced 1,100 layoffs in Michigan.
German auto firms like VW, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen — like their Japanese and Korean rivals — build many of their cars in the United States. In Tennessee alone, foreign carmakers employ a whopping 14,089 people, according to figures from autoalliance.org. American carmakers, on the other hand, employ 4,000 in the Volunteer State — or 28 percent as many as Mercedes, VW, Nissan and Toyota.
Together, the three big German automakers employ tens of thousands of people across the U.S., and they operate large vehicle assembly factories in several states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election, including South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
One more thing: The U.S. trade deficit with Germany is actually going down, according to Reuters.
Our 2016 $64.9 billion trade deficit with Germany was $74.8 billion in 2015.
But Trump doesn’t need facts. An audience — any audience — gives him all he requires.